They came together as windsurfing fanatics, but Paul and Nori Ehman explain how wingsurfing has taken over everything this year, so much so that they've been on a solid 165 day streak of daily sessions in 2020!
All photos: FishBowlDiaries
Where are you both from? N: I grew up in land-locked Canada, obsessed with windsurfing in the 80’s. As a kid I would read Windsurfing Magazine from cover to cover, dreaming of Maui and tearing out pictures of Robby Naish, Matt Schweitzer and Mike Waltz, who were my absolute idols at the time. I would be the first one on the water with my Windsurfer One Design after the ice had melted and the last one out as the snow began to fall. I was an addict... windsurfing was, and still is, my crack. P: I grew up in Michigan teaching people to sail and I raced dinghies. In 1975 I saw pictures of Matt, Mike and Robby Naish at the forefront of a new sport — they were pioneering windsurfing, doing rail rides and other freestyle moves. I made learning to windsurf my goal. I taught myself in March, in Michigan, in full rubber with frozen hands and ice on my sail. That summer my father became a Windsurfer dealer and from there we started a school and created a pretty large fleet of racers.
What took you out to Maui? N: I spent my 20’s doing what was expected: go to school, then find an office job. At 29 I was working in a pump-manufacturing plant in an industrial park in the armpit of Canada and realized I felt kind of empty; like life was passing me by and I was missing out on joy, happiness and life overall. So I came to Maui, my dream place, for the first time in 1999 and it was like the sun came out in my life.
Maui had everything — beauty, sun, wind and waves! I had never seen a proper wave before and wow, what an awakening! I managed to live and work on Maui (on the down-low) for a few years; one of the hardest and best things that I have ever done. I was able to windsurf thanks to generous sponsors in the industry and I worked whatever crap job I could get. I had very little money, but was happier than I had ever been.
P: I was at the ’81 Windsurfer World Championships in Japan and decided to stop by Maui on the way home. Windsurfing was just starting to explode — Mike and Matt were wave sailing Kanaha, Sprecklesville and Ho’okipa, Robby and Pete (who lived on Oahu at the time, but were frequent Maui stars), Greg and Alex Aguera, Klaus and Malte Simmer, Ken Winner, Rhonda Smith, Cort Larned, Miki Hideki, and many, many others were breaking the scene. I planned to stay for a few weeks, but I’ve been here for 40 years so far.
Paul, tell us about Ehman Productions – you managed to work on producing windsurfing events for a while? P: I started Ehman Productions in 1984 to produce the Aloha Classic and O’Neill Invitational. This soon led to other commercial and television productions that kept us very busy. I never completely stopped watersports, but I was only really windsurfing a few times per year — when it was epic. Nori would take my rig to the beach when the conditions were great and sometimes even have it rigged for me when I showed up!
N: Paul loves his job and is a workaholic. So, over the past 15 years, if the stars aligned and the wave/wind ratio was absolutely perfect, I could get Paul out windsurfing with me maybe five or six times a year. Always fun, but a lot of effort on my part. What inspired you to take on wingsurfing? N: About a year ago I bought a Naish Wing-Surfer set-up and started to learn, thinking this would be a fun new challenge. I was surprised that Paul wanted to try too, even with his busy schedule.
It wasn’t long before I realized that I had to get him his own gear if I ever wanted to use mine again… and so it began!
P: Nori spontaneously produced a wing foil set up one day, but work was busy so we picked away at it when we could. I wore the skin off my toes and knees getting up after so many early wipeouts and my body ached in new places. I experienced the ‘good pains’ of learning a new sport! Not having work for about six months really inspired me to continue my wing-surfing journey throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. It was the perfect daily escape.
Has winging brought the two of you back together on the water? N: Yes, and it was so fun to learn a new sport together. P: Winging has become the main activity we plan around each day. It’s an awesome sport to do together because you can charge as hard as you like or just have fun cruising and taking it easy.
What’s your favourite part about the sport? P: The equipment is lightweight, you can do it in practically any conditions and you can rig and be in the water in three minutes. Now we see tiny little kids as well as old folks ripping all over the place. So fun and easy for everyone. We enjoy hanging out with everyone else that loves wing foiling and seeing a new sport evolve so quickly. Thanks to Naish for, once again, being one of the pioneers of a great new sport!
We hear the two of you have a bit of a streak with wingsurfing. How many consecutive days have you managed to string together on the water? N: We were fortunate to be marooned on Maui during the pandemic. Our work came to a complete halt, but we were able to social distance by wingsurfing every day. We’re at about 165 days in a row now, mostly at Kanaha. Our streak is coming to an end as the production industry is slowly coming back, but I am forever thankful for the fun we’ve had and will still have! What a fantastic new sport — wingfoiling is like windsurfing in the 80’s and I have a new addiction! P: When the pandemic hit, business ended for the foreseeable future — nobody was coming here to film anything. We could still go in the ocean for exercise, so the first thing we did was race to the Naish shop to buy everything we needed. We were hooked from our first sessions in December and January so we just started a new routine of packing a lunch and leaving by 10am for Kanaha Beach.